by David Kellin, firstname.lastname@example.org
It seems like a thing of the past. The consequence of cohabitation beyond a certain point resulting in being common law married. No longer is that the case in South Carolina. As of July 24th, 2019, couples will need to have a license to be married. Common Law Marriage is no longer allowed in SC.
The SC Supreme Court noted several reasons why Common Law Marriage had been established. Most notably the early colonies were sparsely populated and access to judges or officiants was limited. The practice was recognized by the British and accepted in the early states.
Another reason it was allowed was the morality of the couple, and the assurance that women would be cared for by someone beside the state. The financial security of women and children was a driving force.
The justices note in their opinion that times have changed. The acceptance of a unmarried woman and the ability for her to provide and care for her children was no longer just by the husband and the state. Women can and do live unmarried and are accepted well in society. Thus the need to be married to be moral or financial stable is greatly reduced.
One other element impacted the decision. Very few people knew of what constituted a common law marriage. The SC legislature had never codified the practice, so it resided in the common laws of the state. The main tenet was mutual agreement that the parties would be considered married. If you both agreed to be married, you were.
The change in the law will apply from this date forward. Those who were considering themselves husband and wife yesterday, still are. The court did not decide to apply the law retroactively. No need to break up families.